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Old 12-29-2017, 08:02 AM   #1
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Looking for help with buying first trawler

Hi all!
Decide to take the plunge and buy into a new lifestyle on a trawler. I have identified what I hope will become our new home (not alone, aspiring admiral along for the ride). We're complete newcomers to this, im aware there's a lot of learning ahead of me, and that starts with the purchasing process. I have done a fair amount of research on the question(s), come across several checklists but still feel that I could do with expert assistance in guiding me in this buying process to minimize potential future issues. I want to be sure all the relevant questions are asked, and need help interpreting the answers.

Most agents seem to serve the interest of the sellers, are there any experts or service that can help the buyer, walk me through the process and ensure that I'm best prepared for this upcoming adventure?
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Old 12-29-2017, 08:27 AM   #2
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Well if you secure a buyers agent then they will be on your side and help through the process. But you'll need to make sure that the boat you're buying is available for co-brokerage.

What's your budget? Are you a newcomer to only trawlers or have you owned other types of boats in the past?
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Old 12-29-2017, 08:27 AM   #3
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Welcome aboard!
Here is a good starting point:
Boat Search 101
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Old 12-29-2017, 09:15 AM   #4
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Well if you secure a buyers agent then they will be on your side and help through the process.

That may or may NOT be true. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, the the seller is paying all brokers.. and all brokers don’t get paid until the sale is made. Not all brokers are created equally. If this is your first boat buying experience, while it can be very hard, you NEED to find someone you both trust (and not just someone that appears trustworthy). Get recos from friends... and that does guarantees success.

Everything about the buying process sucks! Everyone has their hand out for money: brokers, surveyors, boat yards, documenting services, hired captains, marinas, insurance. Even boats you DON’T buy can cost you big if you get to survey. However, at the end of the road is the jackpot. Keep that in mind, but beware the road is full of roadblocks and potholes.

I don’t want to be a buzz-kill. I just want you to understand that yacht buying is not all rainbows and fairy dust. Don’t be afraid to say no or ask questions. Make sure you understand everything before you commit cash or sign paperwork. If it seems like they are pressuring you to hurry, steering you only to boats they are the list agents on, or act like you are wasting their time... move on. The sad truth is that the industry doesn’t do a very good job of regulating itself or keeping out the riff-raff.

Good luck. Don’t lose sight of the brass ring, but remember to keep one eye on the goal and one hand on your wallet. :-)
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Old 12-29-2017, 10:21 AM   #5
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there are many different designs. You need to decide what features you must have and make everything else secondary.

Don't buy until you have inspected at least 50 boats so you begin to understand what features are offered. IMO your objective should be to have looked at enough boats so that after you choose you never get on another boat of that size and say you wish that you had seen that one before purchasing. Buy the biggest boat you can afford because they all shrink after a few months. Larger boats are not harder to handle.

If you plan on long term cruising imagine living in the space for a long time. It makes boat salesmen happy when someone buys another boat after just a few years but IMO it is silly.

Some suggestions:
No ladders
Diesels, twins
Acessible engine room space
Wide side decks for safe access to the bow for line handling.
Space to sit up in bed without hitting your head.
Main berth away from bow to avoid wave noise at anchor.
Easy access to the head at night without climbing over your partner.
Comfortable lounging space both inside and out.
You will spend far more time stopped than underway so comfort then is important.
Form follows function. Dont buy an ugly boat but looks are lot the most important feature.
IMO an inside helm wastes space unless the boat is over 50'. An enclosed flybridge works fine.

None of these ideas are mandatory and many people love their boats that dont meet this list but after owning boats for a long time this is my list.

Here are some things to avoid:
wood framed windows
teak decks absolutley, in fact any external teak at all.
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Old 12-29-2017, 10:26 AM   #6
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That may or may NOT be true. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, the the seller is paying all brokers.
This is VERY important to remember! In some states there are laws about the obligations of a "buyers broker" and in others there are not. In the end it is the seller who is paying the brokers, and so in some states the ONLY person who is owed any "fiduciary duty" -- by either of the brokers -- is the seller.

Important, therefore, to understand what the laws are in the state (or states) where you are looking, so that you understand clearly what your relationship with a buyer's broker really is.

Of course, in the end, both of the brokers (ALL brokers, in fact) are working for themselves -- they don't get paid if the sale does not close, so their first priority is closing a sale.

Good luck.
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Old 12-29-2017, 11:35 AM   #7
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Welcome to the trawler lifestyle. It is a great one that most of us here embrace whole heartedly.

So let me weigh in on the "buyer's agent" thing from the perspective of someone who has bought and sold 7-8 cruising boats and who worked as a boat broker for almost a year.

Boat buying and selling is almost identical to house buying: you look at lots of boats- usually with an agent, you make an offer on the one you like, negotiate a price, sign a contract, conduct an inspection, negotiate again- this is often more extensive than in house buying, you arrange financing and insurance and you close the deal.

I have used a buyer's agent in boat buying and I have seen how a buyer's agent works in house selling. Both work exactly the same and even though their fee was paid by the seller, I promise you that in these cases the buyer's agent worked on behalf of the buyer and in some cases to the detriment of the seller.

But you need to find one. Even though you may cast a wide net geographically to find your right boat, I would strongly suggest finding your buyer's broker (that is the term that the marine industry uses for your "agent") locally.

Go down to the docks and ask people for their recommendations. Interview a few of them. If someone blows you off or more likely talks grandiously about what he can do, move on. I think that the best brokers are those that have been in the business long term and come from an allied boating industry or have cruised themselves extensively.

Good luck!!!

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Old 12-29-2017, 11:41 AM   #8
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Also, you can gain a great deal of knowledge attending the Trawlerfest events. From both the others seminars, and the owners that are there. A couple of classes made all the difference for me and the wife in crew dynamics.
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Old 12-29-2017, 04:09 PM   #9
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Bayview must have preformed the Vulcan mind meld on me, his list contains everything I consider important and a few issues that I had not considered at all. I know that buying a vessel with every item that I want and in the condition I prefer is probably nearly impossible at any price. What issues/items to compromise on becomes the personal soul searching.
Having bought and sold over 30 aircraft of all sizes over my lifetime, I have used “buyers” and “sellers” brokers for several transactions. I personally have found that 90% of brokers for either side are a PITA. The cleanest transactions have been through owner to owner with proper due diligence preformed by both sides. Educate yourself about the vessel, look it over personally, negotiate the deal, have a good survey, renegotiate and the have your personal lawyer familiar with vessel transactions review the agreement. Do not misunderstand me, I hold no grudge with a broker making a profit, I just do not want him to make it all off me. Sitting down with the seller and talking issues out removes several layers of misunderstanding. Write down the talking points and any agreements on issues, both sign the notes and each person takes a copy. I have rarely had an issue after a sale between owners.
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Old 12-29-2017, 05:02 PM   #10
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Hi all!
Decide to take the plunge and buy into a new lifestyle on a trawler. I have identified what I hope will become our new home (not alone, aspiring admiral along for the ride). We're complete newcomers to this, im aware there's a lot of learning ahead of me, and that starts with the purchasing process. I have done a fair amount of research on the question(s), come across several checklists but still feel that I could do with expert assistance in guiding me in this buying process to minimize potential future issues. I want to be sure all the relevant questions are asked, and need help interpreting the answers.

Most agents seem to serve the interest of the sellers, are there any experts or service that can help the buyer, walk me through the process and ensure that I'm best prepared for this upcoming adventure?
What is your boating experience? How are you looking to use the boat? Where will you use it? What is your general range of budget?
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Old 12-30-2017, 07:37 AM   #11
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Thanks all for your valuable input! It's the beginning of my education in this new area. When I said new to this, I should have said virgin... been on some boats and cruises but that's about it...figure that with determination and effort should be able to handle things! I'll be using it almost full time in the carribean, plan to get teaching captain to sort me out before making any big moves. Got a budget of around 100k, but would prefer to spend less (who wouldn't!).

I would love to go to a trawlerfest event but for the moment living between Europe and carribean, That's also part of this challenge, doing things remotely.

Bayview: great list it's very close to what I was thinking, this boat checks (nearly) all your elements. I'm looking at a 50' to give us all the space we need for full time living (coming from RV understand the space issue all to well)

Question: Bayview you mentioned no teak decks or wooden windows. The boat I'm looking at has both... Reading up on it I understand that the issue is potential rot below the teak. To you is teak a deal breaker or not? Will the survey reveal if there is an issue of concern?

The boat I'm looking at it already in Central America so that makes things easier in some ways. It's a 70's GB woodie...I'm imagining groans and gasps now as many I have read speak of higher maintenance and problems on wood boats. That said from what I can tell so far it seems to be well maintained (300k+ spent on complete refit in 2004) and 2013 survey gives it a good report. Seller is motivated given change of life situation, so I should be able to get a good price. I don't want to pass this up unless I have good reasons (issues with boat) as it checks all the boxes for us (size, layout, price, location).

I'm getting better appreciation of the buyer's agent option thanks to your feedback, to date I've never purchased a house or boat before, biggest purchase was my RV few years back so this a new challenge. It seems that yes they are biased towards a sale, and if I was more "educated" in this area I would feel more comfortable going at it alone but seems they do provide the kind of service a person like myself could use.

Now the challenge of finding a "good" one. I've been asking around but so far no friends have any experience or even references to offer. Does this person need to be onsite to visit to boat (obviously preferable but given boat location may be hard for me to find)? I'm open to suggestions from forum members if you have anyone that you feel fits the bill let me know.

This ties in with my problem of location. Seems that order of things would be to:

1) locate buyer agent to help with preliminary evaluation.
2) if good go and visit boat.
3) if good have survey done while there
4) negotiate final price and conditions
5) get lawyer to finalize transaction

Does this seem like a reasonable sequence?

Thanks again for everyone's help!
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Old 12-30-2017, 08:42 AM   #12
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Question: Bayview you mentioned no teak decks or wooden windows. The boat I'm looking at has both... Reading up on it I understand that the issue is potential rot below the teak. To you is teak a deal breaker or not? Will the survey reveal if there is an issue of concern?

The boat I'm looking at it already in Central America so that makes things easier in some ways. It's a 70's GB woodie...I'm imagining groans and gasps now as many I have read speak of higher maintenance and problems on wood boats. That said from what I can tell so far it seems to be well maintained (300k+ spent on complete refit in 2004) and 2013 survey gives it a good report. Seller is motivated given change of life situation, so I should be able to get a good price. I don't want to pass this up unless I have good reasons (issues with boat) as it checks all the boxes for us (size, layout, price, location).

That's ONE issue about teak decks. The other is simply the usual amount of annual maintenance... which you've mentioned.

Which leads to thoughts about an all-wood boat, and the maintenance required. There's not really any amount of "good price" that will make that maintenance go away.

Whether that's a "good reason" or not depends on you, your willingness to do (or pay to have done) all that maintenance, your ability to do it all if you DIY, etc.

For me, a wood boat (these days) is for a person who loves wood.

For folks who love boating, a wood boat may or may not be viable. Maintenance is of course an integral part of boating, but if maintenance time begins eating into float time too much... that's beginning to become a step backwards.

This question is best solved before and during your shopping stage. After-the-fact, you've got what you bought.

BTW, you might have a look at that Chris Craft link in the "seeking advice" thread. Not really a "trawler" like you probably had in mind (i.e., it doesn't look like a GB) but it does apparently have many viable features... so might give you an idea about how to evaluate boats against your own list of preferred features.

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Old 12-30-2017, 09:06 AM   #13
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Yes teak anywhere is a maintenance issue. I have had external teak, never again.

Newbies are the classic customer for wood boats because they are attracted by price. There is a reason prices are low, very few people want them. In the US it is becoming hard to find yards that will even work on them. Consider that a hundred K spent on a good fiberglass boat may be recovered when sold but the next stop for an old wood boat is often the scrap yard.

I cant discourage you strongly enough from buying wood. Wood is only for the most experienced, dedicated preservationist capable of DIY.
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Old 12-30-2017, 09:50 AM   #14
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I cant discourage you strongly enough from buying wood. Wood is only for the most experienced, dedicated preservationist capable of DIY.

+1

I cannot say strongly enough that you NEED to pass this deal up! Not just because it is wood, but because the entire deal looks like you are setting yourself up for a nightmare.

Beyond the fact that a 50’ woodie should never be a newbie’s first boat, the fact that it is in Central America and the owner is claiming $300k in upgrades and is only asking $100k? Moreover, a 2004 upgrade is now 14 years old and a 5 year-old survey is useless. Lots red flags here. What a logistical and paperwork nightmare. Made more confusing by your location.

This is your first boat... and let’s be realistic... you don’t even know if you like the boating lifestyle yet. 50’ (and wood) is a huge first boat. No matter where you are in the Caribbean, there won’t exactly be a West Marine right around the corner. This boat will be about 40 years old and will need CONTINUOUS and CONSTANT levels of attention and maintenance that, as a new boater, could really make your first boating experience a real buzz-kill (even if you DO end up knowing what you are doing). And without a support system? No thank you. Have you even seen the average condition of boats that live in the Caribbean? The marine environment is harsh, but the Caribbean is nearly the harshest of them all.

I am not trying to criticize you, but you really should rethink this deal and your first boat unless you are independently wealthy. We want people to succeed and will help you all we can, but we call a spade a spade when we see one.
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Old 12-30-2017, 10:30 AM   #15
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+1

I cannot say strongly enough that you NEED to pass this deal up! Not just because it is wood, but because the entire deal looks like you are setting yourself up for a nightmare.

Beyond the fact that a 50’ woodie should never be a newbie’s first boat, the fact that it is in Central America and the owner is claiming $300k in upgrades and is only asking $100k? Moreover, a 2004 upgrade is now 14 years old and a 5 year-old survey is useless. Lots red flags here. What a logistical and paperwork nightmare. Made more confusing by your location.

This is your first boat... and let’s be realistic... you don’t even know if you like the boating lifestyle yet. 50’ (and wood) is a huge first boat. No matter where you are in the Caribbean, there won’t exactly be a West Marine right around the corner. This boat will be about 40 years old and will need CONTINUOUS and CONSTANT levels of attention and maintenance that, as a new boater, could really make your first boating experience a real buzz-kill (even if you DO end up knowing what you are doing). And without a support system? No thank you. Have you even seen the average condition of boats that live in the Caribbean? The marine environment is harsh, but the Caribbean is nearly the harshest of them all.

I am not trying to criticize you, but you really should rethink this deal and your first boat unless you are independently wealthy. We want people to succeed and will help you all we can, but we call a spade a spade when we see one.

Yup. Run don't walk. Go to FL and see brokers Mark Grace and Tucker Fallon, not to buy a boat but to get educated. For a cup of coffee and a hamburger or two I'd bet they would give you a boat buying education in a few hours. They are regulars on TF.
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Old 12-30-2017, 04:05 PM   #16
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Our first big boat is a Woody that was very well maintained and upgraded. We absolutely love her. Go with the suggested diligence and let your gut do the final vote. If she is the right one it will all work out. It worked great for us.
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Old 01-02-2018, 09:48 AM   #17
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Hi all happy 2018 to one and all!.

Thanks again for feedback, am reconsidering my options but not the dream! I will be adjusting plans and looking for fiberglass instead. Still a long road ahead but have my eye on the prize...To clarify what I want is to live on (not near) the water, so am looking for is a full time condoboat, basically something I would move two/three times a year in the costal areas from say Cancun to Panama. If needed I would hire someone for the move until I have enough experience.

So I'm gathering never, but at what (if any) price point does a Woody become viable? Was wondering if I can find something in the 30-50k range and plan to use it for say 5 years is it worth considering or basically one can't give away a woody these days? I suspect what I'm going to hear is that the unexpected maintenance costs will potentially kill that dream in the water earlier than expected...and that the headache vs fiberglass is just simply not worth it?

I appreciate all of your comments and constructive criticisms, after all that's what I came for, to avoid costly mistakes!
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Old 01-02-2018, 11:31 AM   #18
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A few comments about brokers.....

Yes, you can get a buyer's broker and yes, YOU can pay him so his money comes from you, not the seller, and he should be totally on your side to help you find the right boat for YOU. Finding that person will not be easy. There's some fine brokers out there and some not so fine.

I'd bet if you got a good one that understands the kind of boat you're looking for.. (trawler, live a board, etc), he could probably save you more than his fee and get you a better boat. This is especially true if one is new to boating.

I've done this with houses, planes and boats. I had one buyers broker that was so good, he would find the deal, negotiate it and bring me the contract. I would often buy without even seeing (houses) and did well on every one of them. But that's a bit rare. Had another broker that I worked for and did similar. We traded a lot of houses, I'd give him the retail stuff he could sell to his clients and he'd give me the wholesale stuff that I could rent or flip.

However, like PBY said, the majority of my purchases have been right from the owner, without a broker and have worked out fine. I find it much easier getting personal with the seller, trade information and strike a deal good for both of us. Surprising, they often become good friends in the end.

However, first priority is to get educated. Do a lot of talking, wandering around marinas, perhaps chartering a boat or two.

There's an argument to buy a "beginner" boat. I could argue against that because the buying and selling process takes so long and gets too complicated, and there's a price just for buying and selling. Survey, fixing things, broker costs and lots of time. And, if you buy a cheap old wooden boat, it may never sell. Chartering could be a lot cheaper and expose you to more boats. And you can learn a ton of info on a 2 day charter.
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Old 01-04-2018, 07:42 AM   #19
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I jumped from a 23' boat to my current 42' (or maybe 45' depending on the drinks) aft cabin and did not use a broker although the seller had a broker listing the boat.

My process was 2.5 years long though and I looked at probably 20 boats during that time.

I have since helped two others buy boats without brokers. In each case including mine, I was able to better negotiate the sale price since they didn't have to spend $$ on a broker fee.

You have to be able to dig through things and have at least some solid knowledge. I picked my surveyor and engine guy on each one so there was no bias.
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Old 01-04-2018, 08:55 AM   #20
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K9,

You process works IF you have some boat knowledge going in. However, you did take 2.5 years and can gain a ton of knowledge in that time, especially looking at 20 boats.

A lot of folks don't want to take that long. If I had a mission in mind, I wouldn't.

However, one can go to a trawler convention and probably get more knowledge there in a week that they can on their own in a year. It might be good for the OP to just travel the distance and attend one.

As for brokers, there's an argument for and against. Same with lawyers, accountants and doctors.
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